DAO 35:221-233 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/dao035221

Molecular characterization of the myxosporean associated with parasitic encephalitis of farmed Atlantic salmon Salmo salar in Ireland

S. Frasca Jr1,*, D. R. Linfert2, G. J. Tsongalis2, T. S. Gorton1, A. E. Garmendia1, R. P. Hedrick3, A. B. West4, H. J. Van Kruiningen1

1Department of Pathobiology, U-89, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-3089, USA
2Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Hartford Hospital, Hartford, Connecticut 06102, USA
3Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, One Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA
4Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas 77555, USA

ABSTRACT: During seasonal epizootics of neurologic disease and mass mortality in the summers of 1992, 1993 and 1994 on a sea-farm in Ireland, Atlantic salmon Salmo salar smolts suffered from encephalitis associated with infection by a neurotropic parasite. Based on ultrastructural studies, this neurotropic parasite was identified as an intercellular presporogonic multicellular developmental stage of a histozoic myxosporean, possibly a Myxobolus species. In order to generate sequence data for phylogenetic comparisons to substantiate the present morphological identification of this myxosporean in the absence of detectable sporogony, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Southern blot hybridization, dideoxynucleotide chain-termination DNA sequencing, and in situ hybridization (ISH) were used in concert to characterize segments of the small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) gene. Oligonucleotide primers were created from sequences of the SSU rRNA gene of M. cerebralis and were employed in PCR experiments using DNA extracted from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue sections of brains from Atlantic salmon smolts in which the myxosporean had been detected by light microscopy. Five segments of the SSU rRNA gene of the myxosporean, ranging in length from 187 to 287 base pairs, were amplified, detected by hybridization with sequence-specific probes, and sequenced. Consensus sequences from these segments were aligned to create a partial sequence of the SSU rRNA gene of the myxosporean. Assessments of sequence identity were made between this partial sequence and sequences of SSU rRNA genes from 7 myxosporeans, including Ceratomyxa shasta, Henneguya doori, M. arcticus, M. cerebralis, M. insidiosus, M. neurobius, and M. squamalis. The partial SSU rRNA gene sequence from the myxosporean had more sequence identity with SSU rRNA gene sequences from neurotropic and myotropic species of Myxobolus than to those from epitheliotropic species of Myxobolus or Henneguya, or the enterotropic species of Ceratomyxa, and was identical to regions of the SSU rRNA gene of M. cerebralis. Digoxigenin-labeled oligonucleotide DNA probes complementary to multiple segments of the SSU rRNA gene of M. cerebralis hybridized with DNA of the parasite in histologic sections of brain in ISH experiments, demonstrating definitively that the segments of genome amplified were from the organisms identified by histology and ultrastructural analysis. Based on sequence data derived entirely from genetic material of extrasporogonic stages, the SSU rDNA sequence identity discovered in this study supports the hypothesis that the myxosporean associated with encephalitis of farmed Atlantic salmon smolts is a neurotropic species of the genus Myxobolus, with sequences identical to those of M. cerebralis.

KEY WORDS: Atlantic salmon · Myxosporean · Myxobolus cerebralis · Small subunit ribosomal DNA · PCR · In situ hybridization

Full text in pdf format